02 December 2004

Operation Neptune staff call it a day

The anti-poaching police unit Operation Neptune has withdrawn from the southern Cape Coast, leaving a major gap in the authorities' fight against skyrocketing perlemoen poaching.

After conflicting reports by the police and Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) last week about whether Operation Neptune would remain operational during the crucial summer months until Operation Trident could be implemented, Operation Neptune staff at Gansbaai held a farewell braai on Monday and their offices are now empty.

In Hermanus, Neptune's control room has closed and in Kleinmond there have been no Neptune officers at work since the end of October.

It is understood that MCM had drawn up emergency plans to fill the hiatus left by Neptune to try to keep a lid on poaching until Operation Trident is implemented.

The emergency plans include bringing in the SA Navy to the Overstrand area and deploying MCM's new patrol vessel, the Lilian Ngoyi. MCM is also to deploy extra staff and vehicles in the area for the summer and is to employ the services of a security company.

The police have not given reasons why they have terminated Operation Neptune at such a critical time.

Operation Neptune is funded by MCM, which said last week it had paid the police to run the operation until the end of March.

Police have said they will deploy an extra 70 police in the Overstrand area, but that these members will "perform the overall duty of crime prevention, of which (combating) abalone poaching is one task".

The MCM and Overstrand municipality, which run the anti-poaching Marines, were not available for comment.


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